Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The Hidden Truth About Diversification

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If you’ve been investing for any length of time, you’ve likely heard plenty about diversification – the concept of spreading investments across different asset classes and different investments within those asset classes. The idea is so highly regarded that the creators of portfolio diversification theory won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1990.

The Oxford Club certainly adheres to this theory. The Oxford Wealth Pyramid, which we consider to be “the blueprint for financial independence,” recommends that your portfolio includes a core portfolio, “Blue Chip Outperformers,” targeted trading, and other strategies to ensure a broad mix of investments that should pay off over the long and short term.

But it’s not just about diversifying your stocks or even diversifying across asset classes. I recommend you also diversify where you keep your investments and cash. I learned the hard way about the risk of having most of my money in just one financial institution.

Shortly before the global financial crisis, I invested nearly all of my cash in what were supposed to be very short-term, very conservative notes. I expected that my cash would earn a superior interest rate and would be available to me when I needed it.

But when the economy and financial markets seized up, my broker froze those notes – and my cash along with it.

I eventually got all of my money back, but it was a long year until I did.

At the same time, my bank – one of the largest in the country – went under. Fortunately, the larger bank that rescued it handled the transition seamlessly (though they’ve been awful to deal with ever since).

After those two harrowing experiences, I vowed to never be in the same situation again. I now make sure to spread my investments and cash over various financial institutions. That way, if one goes down and my assets are locked up, I’m not scrambling trying to figure out how to pay the mortgage.

Unfortunately, as I write this, more than 100,000 banking customers who used various “fintech” apps have been locked out of their accounts for nearly two months. Fintech, short for “financial technology,” refers to technology that supports banking – often in the form of third-party apps that connect to bank or financial institution accounts.

In this case, Synapse, a company that served as a middleman between the fintech apps and the banks, went bankrupt and locked users out of their accounts. Most users probably didn’t even know Synapse was part of their transaction process.

Having multiple bank and brokerage accounts is not terribly convenient. You have to keep track of more accounts, more user IDs and more passwords. But just in case something unfortunate happens in the coming years – and let’s face it, between the economy, cyberattacks, a shaky electric grid and good old-fashioned mismanagement, it probably will – it’s a good idea to have assets in a number of different places.

It’s like having a coffee can stuffed with cash in the cupboard and a shoebox full of cash buried in the backyard. Even if someone were to steal the coffee can, you’d still have the shoebox – only in this case, the shoebox is called Fidelity, Schwab, Vanguard, etc.

The stress of having my savings locked up for a year was awful. I’ll never again allow one institution to have that much of an effect on my life.

Diversify your financial relationships just like you do your portfolio.

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